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Sundance 2012: Controversial Drama 'Compliance' Sells to Magnolia Pictures

The movie about how people react to authority debuted Jan. 21 at the Library Theater.


Magnolia Pictures has become one of the most active buyers at Sundance this year, scooping up U.S. rights to controversial drama Compliance. Magnolia, which has purchased four films at the festival, is planning a theatrical release for Compliance later this year.

The film about how people react to authority is from writer/director Craig Zobel and bowed Jan. 21 at the Library Center Theatre. Based on true events, Compliance is the story of Sandra (played by Ann Dowd), a manager at a fast food restaurant, who receives a call from an apparent police officer accusing one of her employees, a teenage girl named Becky (Dreama Walker), of stealing from a customer.

Taking the caller at his word, Sandra detains Becky, setting into motion a nightmarish scenario that quickly spirals out of control and leads to a sexual assault. The film generated a passionate, at times combative reaction in its Sundance debut.

Moments after the film finished screening, a woman in the audience shouted: "Sundance, you can do better!" saying that during a year with so many of the festival's films featuring strong female characters, "This is not the year to make violence against women entertaining." 

The film was the second title bought by Magnolia on Saturday. Earlier in the day, Magnolia acquired North American rights to Ry Russo-Young's Nobody Walks. Magnolia picked up North American rights to the horror film V/H/S for north of $1 million early Thursday morning (Magnet Releasing, Magnolia's genre arm, will distribute the film), and it also nabbed the documentary The Queen of Versailles at the start of the festival.

Compliance was produced by Sophia Lin, Lisa Muskat, Tyler Davidson, Theo Sena and Zobel. 

The deal was negotiated for Magnolia by SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley with John Sloss and Dana O’Keefe of Cinetic Media representing the filmmakers.  

Email: Daniel.Miller@THR.com; Jay.Fernandez@THR.com 

Twitter: @DanielNMiller@Writer730